Thursday, July 20, 2017
Two hours by train from Vienna
The main reason I chose to take R&R in Vienna, Austria is its proximity to its Central European neighbors. That it's a kandlocked nation, Danube river notwithstanding, was another draw. As such, there's a snowball's chance in Hades that I'd go there for work. I flew from the great maritime nation of Greece, via The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, to the green fields of Austria. Now Vienna is an international city, not to just mean residents from across Europe, but from around the world. This distinguishment comes out late at evening, when it appears that the born citizens are at home, getting rested to conquer the world on the morrow. And the memory of the Hapsburg runs deep, with dedications of civic landmarks and learning to Franz Josef. The Hapsburgs are still around, though the British royalty get all the attention: 20 year old Ferdinand von Habsburg is better known as a Racecar driver.
I had the opportunity to visit Bratlislava in Slovakia and Brno in the Czech Republic. Once subjected to communism, the old winding medieval streets are filled with life. I could only notice the preponderance of streetcars. Once shunned in North America, the quaint mode of transport has been a feature of Central European life since the Romantic age. Several new-builds have been exported to Washington,DC to restart streetcar service recently. The cathedrals in Bratislava and Brno are filled with choirs, organ music, and a congregation. On the street, the older men still wear hats. Named after Dvorak and Chopin, the eastbound trains to Prague pass a dystopia border town. One stop further, and my eyes were fixed on the old city of Brno. At the post office in Brno, I took my first ride in a paternoster. It's really a fancier version of a man lift, but the German invention has been abandoned in Western Europe for safety reasons. Two years ago, I had bought a quick phrase book for Central Europe. It was kind of prophetic that I would have the opportunity to visit. When it was time to fly home to D.C., I was in awe of the lands that once consisted an empire. My pockets had Euros, and coins from Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Denmark, where I had a layover on my return trip. The European hopper flight on Air Berlin was nothing to write home about, but the Scandinavian-accommodating legroom on the long-haul SAS flight was much appreciated. Meal service was the best I've had on a plane. Coffee, tea and water were abundant and available on demand; I like to think the charge for soda was a health incentive. Anyhow, I got my kroner's worth from the flight lounge in Copenhagen.
Someday, I will take the grand tour of Europe- London, Paris and Rome. But those pint-size cities of Central Europe have touched my heart.